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Toddcast - Season 4, Episode 3 


“Free Agents” 

This episode of Toddcast is sponsored by our Patron Elizabeth Ellis. Thanks, Liz. 

Hello and welcome, everyone! I'm Todd Lyons, and this is Toddcast, Season 4, Episode 
3: a show for, and about, public servants. 

You ever wake up in the morning and think, where is my career going? 

If you haven't, well lucky you, but for a lot of us there have been mornings - maybe a lot 
of mornings - where it was hard getting out of bed wondering: is this really what I'm 
going to be doing until retirement? Same duties, same projects, every year, no variety, 
no new complexity, no steep learning curve, no being completely thrown into something 
that you have no idea what you're going to do... a project where before you can even 
have any demonstrable results you have to wrestle with defining what the real problem 
actually is because a lot things might have already been tried before and failed, and 
taking inventory of the resources at hand that might be helpful in this process, and 
identifying and obtaining more resources you might need but don't actually have a 
budget for, and using new tools that you never even heard of before you started 
wrestling with this problem, and, changing your approach midstream as your 
understanding of the problem evolves, and in that process, getting to know yourself and 
all the things you didn't realize you were capable of, and most importantly, getting to 
know the people around you and all the things they don't realize they're capable of, and 
helping them to bring those things out, and revelling in the joy of all the amazing things 
that are possible when complete strangers put their egos in the dumpster and push 
down their fear and embrace the possibility of failure and spend each day putting their 
very best thought and sweat into achieving something that sounds impossible because 
it hasn't been done before and there might not be a template for it but one of your 
colleagues has heard about some tangential work happening in Australia that perhaps 
we could adapt to at least get a basic, experimental framework in place and... 

Have I lost you? Well, that kind of uncertainty is not for everybody. 

There's something to be said about a job with a certain kind of normality, a routine, well 
defined parameters. But a lot real world problems don't conform to existing parameters, 
nor do certain people. I'm probably one of those people. 

In the confines of a normal job, I am an excellent employee... for about 12 to 18 
months... and then I'm a good employee, for some time after that due to decreased 
enthusiasm. 


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Did I change over that 2 to 3 year period? No. But neither did the job, and that's a 
problem for me. 

I like to be in a constant state of learning, growth and change. I am uncomfortable 
remaining inside my comfort zone for extended periods of time. When I achieve 
proficiency in a new area and excellence is within reach, I'm already looking around and 
thinking to myself, “Okay, what's next?” And when the answer is “Great, do it again” or 
“Yeah, just like that, but more in less time” then I know, my time is up. 

I've left some perfectly good jobs because it didn't seem to me that there was a role to 
move up to, and so I moved out... to another department, to an assignment within that 
department, to a secondment to another department. Then, an extension to that 
secondment and a second extension, all the while wondering where I could move 
forward to, because it always has to be forward, if I'm going to be the best public 
servant I can be. 

Then, in 2016, the perfect job. I was one of the very first employees selected for a new 
initiative at Natural Resources Canada - “Canada's Free Agents” - which has become 
so successful that it's spread to include multiple departments. 

Have I changed since I became a Free Agent? Yes. I have a talent manager now - 
someone completely invested in my growth and success - and I've grown and 
succeeded. 

And as for the work, it's always changing. It's always challenging. As I've said many 
times to many people, I could never go back to doing a normal job again. 

So on this episode I wanted you to meet, everyone. All the Free Agents, the Talent 
Managers, ... but you'll have to settle with the dozen or so colleagues that were actually 
available who agreed to be packed into a boardroom for this conversation. 

Todd Lyons 

So welcome everyone. Thanks for coming. So, I have seven 
questions. They were offered from social media, and I guess I 
also had a look to see the feedback we had on the Canada School 
of Public Service webcasts, so this will be a reflection of 
that. So who has an elevator pitch for Free Agents? So 
specifically what it is and why it should even exist when we 
already have secondments as a way of getting temporary talent 
into projects? 


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(silence) 


Justify your existence or you're all fired now. 

(laughter) 

Lily Spek 

When we have managers that have all the power to grant 
assignments, grant secondments, etc.. Free Agency puts the power 
back in the employees hands to chart their own course, find the 
best places for them, and it means that the managers actually 
get even better people because we learn and we expand our skill 
sets . 

Bruce Lonergan 

Well, I think honestly, as it puts control in our hands as 
employees actually we're able to help make the connection to the 
job that would be best suited for us and that we want. And 
actually, ultimately, the manager succeeds and wins. And so we 
find our sweet spot, they find who they need, and the work has 
elevated significantly. 

Todd Lyons 

Any other thoughts? What are they misunderstanding about Free 
Agents? Is there something that people get wrong? 

Ryan Sigouin 

A lot of managers, a lot of people tend to think that we are 
consultants: that we are hired to go in, we put blinders on, we 
do a very specific job and that's all our role is. We're a lot 
more. We bring value. We bring expertise, our networks to an 
organization to help improve an organization, not just do a 
single task. 

Todd Lyons 

Are placements based on existing skills or do people feel like 
they're learning entirely new skills? And how do you choose a 
placement? 

Nancy Pawelek 

Well, when I joined the Free Agent program — because I'm at the 
end of my public service career — I thought it was going to be 


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an opportunity to take my depth of skill and knowledge in 
managing Public Opinion Research and pass it along to the next 
generation and to continue working in that field. And in fact, I 
have done exactly the opposite. I'm now doing something I've 
never done before. But all of my skills and experience from 
before are coming into this current assignment. 

Aaron Percival 

For me, it's about a two way exchange. I look for places where I 
can add value based on my experiences and my skills, and not 
necessarily functional experiences, but places where I can apply 
what makes me me and not just be a bum in the seat. And on the 
other hand, I look for experiences where when I'm finished, I 
have something that I can learn from and have learned from and 
take that into the next opportunity. 

Daphne Guerrero 

I've been taking assignments where I get to learn new things and 
what I've been discovering is that it's also opened me up to the 
possibilities of new areas that I had no idea even existed, and 
so those have been leading to other placements and assignments. 
So I feel like it's taken my career in a completely different 
direction. And for that, I'm really grateful. 

Greg White 

I think it's been interesting. My perspective's actually changed 
from assignment to assignment. So the first assignment I took it 
was really an opportunity to see how I could build a new 
network: an expertise in an area I didn't know at all about. And 
my second assignment — which was really interesting — was a pure 
passion project that developed into an actual project. So a 
bunch of years I've been doing different volunteering work on 
the side, and it came up as a really cool opportunity. And it 
was an excellent fit for where I was going. And so yes, I'm 
using some skills and experience that I have, but it's also a 
huge stretch in terms of what I'm going to be expected to do. 

So. . . 

Steph Percival 

I've gone for kind of a mix-match and done things that are 
related to my skill set so I could further hone my skills but 
also learn new skills. But what I really found was that the 
program allowed me to discover really where my strengths were 


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and where I could be most effective in an organization. 

Etienne Laliberte 

I like to look for an assignment where I'm on the edge of my 
comfort zone and where by the time I leave, I will have 
stretched those boundaries. 

Stephanie Davidson 

I think there's probably a comfort though. And knowing., taking 
the skill set that you have and moving. As Free Agents, we move 
frequently. And so that taking that first step of going in with 
that certain... being that subject matter expert in a certain 
area, but knowing then looking for opportunity to move beyond 
that. So that's what I look for is when I can take the skill set 
— the things that I'm good at — and then apply them in a larger 
context. So I often look for something where there's opportunity 
to expand. 

Bruce Lonergan 

I just wanted to add, I think that other than what I gained from 
it, honestly, at the end of the day, I really enjoy trying to 
make a difference with whatever project, whatever area I'm 
working in and trying to leave something that really helps 
people — help make them better, make something make more 
efficient. So I really like to work in an area that I do have 
some ability to contribute from my expertise, but to leave a 
lasting impression I guess. 

Todd Lyons 

Any other thoughts? 

Greg White 

One of the things that I found at least starting with my 
previous manager, and then the newer area I'm in, [is] that I 
always think it's fun to be in that role, and a lot of people 
are looking for that from us is actually to be a healthy 
disruptor. And so we're giving license to a lot of the people 
that we work with, to ask those same questions, again, that they 
may have been asking already. And so being able to create that 
space, whether you go in or not. And obviously, based on the 
team and the group you're working with, has been really 
important for me to continue to test and be out of my comfort 
zone in particular. 


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Todd Lyons 

So are you finding that the placements that you're being offered 
are novel experiences, or is it kind of the standard government 
fair that everyone would get? 

Hope Harris 

No, it's actually not. I'm working at a lab at ESDC. And it's an 
innovation lab and because I did have some lab experience this 
lab is that much more sophisticated than where I was previously. 
So I would say that where I am is anything but standard in terms 
of how folks work in the public service. And I'm lucky to be 
part of that. 

Nancy Pawelek 

My experience so far and I've had — I've been in two assignments 
— is that the real factor that that that struck me is whether 
the managers that hire you are actually interested in trying new 
things. So in my first assignment, I was in a policy shop. And 
there was initially the sense that there was an interest in 
experimentation and pushing the boundaries. But for a variety of 
reasons, I was not able to advance things. In my current 
assignment, I have had very strong support from my immediate 
supervisor and the next level up. The ones higher up are a 
little bit more risk averse but because the managers I'm working 
directly for are really supportive and encouraging, this has 
been a completely different experience and it's been very 
positive even though both are quote unquote, policy jobs. 

Karol Gajewski 

I think one of the powers of the Free Agent program is that it 
allows managers to create innovative projects that even they 
themselves don't know how they will go in that when they hire us 
as Free Agents we're given a lot of latitude to take projects to 
places where we think will give the most benefit to Canadians. 
And sometimes that's outside of the original scope of the 
proj ect. 

Greg White 

It's interesting, your point about novelty. I would say I had 
two very different experiences. And one was definitely to fill a 
bunch of functions for a position that was existing and 
absolutely you come in and you provide some new ideas, and most 


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teams are really receptive to that. And obviously, as you 
deliver and you build that relationship, it's good. And the 
position I'm in now is purely something that came out of 
nothing. There is no real roadmap for how we're going to do what 
we're going to do. And so we're... Yeah, I'm giving being given 
latitude, but I'm also finding a lot of allies within the system 
and that's a great part about being a Free Agent is you have a 
lot of folks you can reach out to help build that path. 

Amanda Bloom 

I guess the thing about being a Free Agent is you get to choose 
your assignment. So you can go into something more traditional 
or a bit newer or outside the beaten trail, because you're able 
to choose from a list of opportunities that managers have 
submitted because they would like a Free Agent, but you can also 
find your own. So for myself I've kind of done a gamut where my 
first one was someone who reached out to me, my second one I 
chose from the list. And then the third one was kind of an off 
the beaten trail opportunity. 

Todd Lyons 

Anybody else? 

Lily Spek 

To touch on what Amanda said, I haven't done it yet. But as a 
Free Agent, you're welcome to approach any manager if you have a 
great idea for a project that happens to fall within their 
sphere of work. So we can — if we don't see an opportunity that 
suits our skill set or attributes, the things we want to try to 
accomplish — we can go out there and talk to anyone and make 
something happen. 

Stephanie Davidson 

And that includes external as well, so going to take some 
private industry experience an interchange and then bringing 
that knowledge back to the Government of Canada. 

Steph Percival 

So for my second Free Agent assignment, I get to be part of a 
startup office that's building a policy community with public 
servants. And that comes with a lot of creative autonomy. It 
comes with a lot of co-creation with other public servants. And 
it's incredibly rewarding to take part in something that's 


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intentionally designed to step outside of the boundaries of 
traditional ways of working in the public service. 

Daphne Guerrero 

Just to follow up on Lily's point about organizations and 
choosing your own work. I'm with my second assignment, I kind of 
took a different approach and didn't really look at the list of 
available options and just thought about where do I want to work 
and I kind of narrowed it down to two different places and then 
just called up managers there. And so I had the ability to kind 
of choose my own workplace dependent on what do I want to learn? 
Who do I want to work with? What kind of work environment do I 
want to be in? 

Karol Gajewski 

I think for managers, they also need to recognize that they're 
not just hiring the one Free Agent. They're hiring pretty much 
all of us. Because when we have — when we're when we're posed 
with a problem, we have an entire network of people throughout 
all of government that are working in all sorts of positions and 
all sorts of departments that can help us solve a problem. 

Nancy Pawelek 

Good point, Carl. But I think the other thing that I have found 
is that we're not really unusual when we go in. I think they're 
— I've sensed in both places that I've been working that I find 
out quite quite a bit after the fact, after I started there, 
that there was a bit of resentment that I was being brought in 
as an agent of change. And for me, I have not been able to do 
anything on my own. I've had support and help from the other 
Free Agents. But in each of the places that I was at it was the 
colleagues that I were working with, who had all the good ideas 
and I just helped in some ways: kind of give them a little 
different focus, help them tell the story a bit better, had a 
whole skill set that I could do to sort of make their own ideas 
and for change shine. But I think it's — it's not just us, it's 
the people in our host department that we work with who help us 
succeed. 

Hope Harris 

I think that speaks to the whole consulting model that we're 
actually not, because if you're a consultant you have an 
expertise that you're selling to an organization. And that 


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doesn't mean that we don't all come with their own unique set of 
skills and knowledge and experience and expertise. But we don't 
— I think it's really faulty to think that we come in to kind of 
save the world because that's really not what the Free Agents is 
about. And I think to the extent to which we are able to 
integrate ourselves into the ongoing teams that we find 
ourselves it's only to the whole projects benefit and also to 
our benefit, because it is a reciprocal arrangement. We're 
learning from them just as much as hopefully they're learning 
from us. 

Todd Lyons 

Have you observed any trends as far as key challenges and some 
of the projects that you've worked on? And if so, how have you 
addressed them? 

Lily Spek 

Some of the most pervasive trends I've noticed in my two 
assignments today have been related to tack and ability to 
collaborate and communicate with people, both inside and outside 
government. And my approach has just been to get out there and 
try things. If something doesn't work, pursue another avenue. 

And I think that's also given people around me the license to 
try things themselves as well. So if you're in a department 
that's particularly risk averse, has a very closed sort of 
security model. Not every department will be open to change. But 
some departments are open to change if you ask and make a case 
for why this is a really good thing or a good tool for a 
business to have. 

Amanda Bloom 

So just building on what Lily said, those have been the 
challenges that I've run into, not luckily in my instance, not 
so much with the technology but more with the aversion to risk. 
So when bringing forward new ideas, having barriers and 
resistance to that. And the best way I found to overcome that is 
to show the value in the proposed approach and to mitigate all 
those risks by showing there actually is not any risk — other 
than your own fear. 

Greg White 

I think one of the interesting things for Free Agents a lot of 
the time is that we're brought in for a specific project based 


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work. And so for me, in particular, often what that happens is, 
then you realize how many layers of approvals you need to get 
what you need done. And in our case, it's very short timelines, 
or it's in a very succinct amount of time. And so I've spent a 
lot of the time renegotiating who's actually the responsibility 
and where do we get those decisions made. And the team is always 
very receptive when you try and de-layer the amount of layers 
you actually have to have approvals on. Yeah, it's always going 
to be a tough one. And part of that is building the relationship 
with the team, building confidence. And yes, you can deliver, 
and then clearly delineating why you don't need that additional 
layer. Or you don't need that additional decision point, or at 
least combine the points so that it's one briefing as opposed to 
multiple. So that's been my approach. So far, it's been fairly 
successful. 

Hope Harris 

I think there's a lot of conversation going on in the system 
about innovation. And I think we're still as a public service 
still grappling with that. And that's been some of the 
challenges that I found. So trying to help my colleagues to have 
the kinds of conversations that they need in order to help move 
things through the system. And that can look like layers of 
approvals. That can look like in a big department where one 
branch doesn't talk to the other. It's helping to break down 
some of those silos that really are just so manufactured and not 
necessary. 

Aaron Percival 

I think one thing that we've exposed is just the general lack of 
agility and mobility that government has with respect to its 
human resources. So for example, I know a lot of Free Agents 
have had challenges when they've moved to other departments 
about their tech, their Blackberry, their computers, their 
MyKey. All of these things that should really be enterprise-wide 
solutions and things that we've actually developed 
enterprise-wide agencies to solve. And we haven't really solved 
anything, and they've just continued to be barriers. 

Lily Spek 

What Aaron was pointing to, is also a great opportunity to 
remember that at the end of the day, we serve Canadians. If a 
given organization's only concern is with security or with 


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privacy, that should be in the context of serving Canadians the 
best way that we can, and that should be our motivating push 
forward, not to ensure that we adhere to a very specific 
security regimen or whatever it may be. But we need to take that 
like higher level view and look at what we can do for Canadians 
at the end of the day, while obviously respecting privacy and 
security concerns. 


Greg White 

One additional point I wanted to add that I found really curious 
for myself, in taking on roles as we go as Free Agents to 
postings, is actually creating more accountability for yourself 
and what you're doing. And so to that point about leadership or 
project role, I'm actually doing my best to say, if if you 
brought me here to do this, I am fully accountable for this. I 
will make the decisions and I will deal with those decisions 
whether the project is success or not. And that has freed up a 
lot of people in terms of conversations, whether it's manager, 
director, executive director, because you're constantly 
renegotiating what that is. And the sooner you build that trust, 
the sooner they're saying, okay, you are going to make this 
decision, this is the direction we're going to go. And that's 
what I find is a common struggle for a lot of people is shifting 
decision making, or more sitting on something, we're not quite 
sure where we go. And that lack of decision is often a real 
struggle for us. So it's forced me to be out of my comfort zone 
and take that accountability and put put my name on a lot of 
that type of work. But it's also helped. I found in at least 
some teams, people are a lot more willing to do that now, and 
seeing that and sharing that experience with others. 

Hope Harris 

Just want to build on what Lily said for a second, which is, I 
think the one of the pluses of the Free Agent program is that we 
do have that pan-Canadian federal, across the system viewpoint. 
And that's constantly sort of the perspective that we are lucky 
to have, and that we need to keep reminding ourselves that help 
the departments work across work on challenges that may include 
more than one department may include within a department and we 
can often be the catalyst for that. Because in most cases, it's 


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not necessary that that one department has all the answers, 
especially in this day and age. 

Todd Lyons 

How do you manage the uncertainty of not knowing where your next 
placement will be? Or, if there'll be another placement? This is 
a real fear out there. I didn't make this question up. 


(laughter) 

Karol Gajewski 

Panic. 

(laughter) 

Karol Gajewski 

Panic and worry because every so often you do have that little 
pang of uncertainty. And you know, your self esteem takes a hit, 
if you are still spending entirely too much time trying to find 
that assignment. Sometimes you do spend a whole week going into 
meetings with managers and whatever. And at the end of that 
week, you've just learned a lot of places that you don't want to 
work. 

(laughter) 

Todd Lyons 

It's an excellent point. 

Greg White 

I think it's an interesting point. I think the biggest struggle 
was the initial placement, the first one is definitely the most 
stressful. What you'll find, too, though is you'll gain 
confidence in your own skills. You'll gain confidence in the 
questions that you want to ask. And by doing that, you're 
actually in a situation where you feel a lot more comfortable 
with that uncertainty. I'm not saying it ever goes away. But for 
me, it's been something that's actually been really valuable 
about the program, because I never wanted to be complacent in my 
role as a public servant. And so it's that little bit of fire 
that keeps you moving, keeps your eyes up, keeps you paying 
attention to things that are going on. And so that, and we also 


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have such a great support network within the community, that if 
you are looking for work, if you are struggling to find that 
next placement, you've got 20 other people that are the first 
ones to call you and talk you through. Okay, I know three other 
people I can reach out to. And usually they're the best types of 
references, you want to go work there anyways. 

Amanda Bloom 

One thing that I've done to kind of mitigate that or that 
feeling of, maybe having panic or uncertainty is looking for my 
next assignment about two months, actually, ahead of when my 
current one's going to end. So the reason I like to do that is, 
it really does give me time to kind of do that scan to make sure 
I end up in an environment that is right for me, and also in an 
opportunity that allows me to achieve my goals. So, yeah, I 
found that that helped. And the other thing is, we really do 
have access to a lot of opportunities. So I feel that the demand 
is there. So I don't really find that I have that fear of there 
never been another assignment because I feel that the 
opportunities are fairly endless. 

Stephanie Davidson 

To build off of Amanda's point, so before joining government, 
I've been with government now, well, over a decade. Before that, 
I had my own business. And so it's a reminder, I realized being 
part of joining this program, how I become a bit complacent 
myself, and not making the effort to network and keep up with my 
contacts and whatnot. So it's actually been refreshing to 
realize that no matter how much stability you have in 
government, we are very fortunate because we do have such a 
broad network of contacts here. And to keep up with those 
because it's important to make sure that you keep up with their 
chronic so that you can line yourself up something. But yeah, 
it's been a great experience to be reminded of that. 

Bruce Lonergan 

I don't understand. I know that some people certainly do have 
fears when it comes to whether an extra time it will come along. 
And I've never been like that I've kind of just taken things as 
they come. But I've also been one — I've created a lot of 
networks around government. And so I have a lot of 
opportunities. I don't worry if I'm going to be on the beach, so 
to speak, for any length of time, I've got a lot of things I can 


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do. And at the end of the day, like was just said, there's a lot 
of opportunities that are already coming to the Free Agent 
program. So I think we are having more and more to choose from, 
so they're looking for us more than we need to look out. 

Steph Percival 

So I think I actually have the opposite problem. And I have 
workplace claustrophobia. And that comes from some early 
experiences in my public service career where I felt like I was 
at risk of getting trapped in a box that I wasn't comfortable 
being contained in. But on a more pragmatic note, there are 
260,000 jobs in the public service. And there's never going to 
be a shortage of work. So it's more about finding the project 
that fuels your fire and something that you can get up and get 
excited about at the end of the day. And that's the part that I 
spend more time thinking about. But there's a lot of fantastic 
work out there, so it hasn't been a problem for me yet. 

Nancy Pawelek 

I'd add a couple things. One, that somebody mentioned the 
support of the Free Agent networks but also the Talent Managers 
are very good at staying on top of where we're at, sussing out 
when we might be looking for something else. And they take a 
very active role in supporting us. But the other thing I would 
also say is, I think there's a greater risk in staying somewhere 
where you're not happy and not being in control of what happens 
next. Because I think at least, sure there's a risk, but the 
Free Agent program offers this opportunity to try new things, to 
try someplace else. And if that doesn't work out, there is an 
escape clause and our Talent Managers and the executives that 
that are responsible for our positions support us in finding a 
better fit. So, I think the rewards far outweigh those risks. 

And I would encourage anybody to jump in whether you're at the 
beginning of the career, middle of your career, or at the end of 
your career. 

Todd Lyons 

What is the one thing that has surprised you the most about 
being a Free Agent? 

Ryan Sigouin 

Quite honestly, it's explaining what a Free Agent is. A lot of 
people... I mean, I always assumed that people knew what Free 


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Agency was as much as I did. But a lot of people have this 
misconception or they question, thinking, so you're just giving 
up your job and now you're going to be jumping from place to 
place, you'd have no stability, you have no community, what are 
you doing? And it's that you can be an entrepreneur in the 
public service while still serving Canadians at the same time. 
And that's... it's something that most public servants have lost 
that feeling of independence, which Free Agency gives back to 
you. 


Amanda Bloom 

I think, for me, the most surprising thing was that the program 
was as-advertised. So, I think many of us throughout our careers 
might have had those moments where you think it's going to be 
one way and then it's not or anyway, lots of different stories 
around around that. But yeah, I didn't apply for the first 
cohort because I thought it was too good to be true. And then 
when I saw the first cohort in practice, that was when I saw 
that it really was as-advertised and decided to apply for the 
second because the risk associated with you know, moving 
yourself indeterminately to one place that you don't actually 
work for the risk really isn't quite there as kind of discussed 
earlier, because there's just such a plethora of assignments 
that are available. And you know, the program really does 
support your development, and there's promotion opportunities 
within and it really is about the individual and about getting 
the most out of it for yourself. So, it's awesome. 

Todd Lyons 

As a member of the first cohort, I shared that same sort of 
sense of, "Oh, thank God!" 

(laughter) 

Aaron Percival 

For me, what was surprising was the richness of diversity of all 
the Free Agents in terms of skills and backgrounds, points of 
their career, when they decided to join, the types of work, they 
like the types of work they're trying as well. 

Daphne Guerrero 


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I would definitely echo Aaron's point. And to just build on it, 

I didn't expect to really benefit from the support of having 
this cohort of people. My assumption when I joined the Free 
Agent program was that we would all be these kind of like 
independent consultants off on our own little journeys, and 
maybe we come together, but we really have nothing in common. 

But I feel like I've got kind of the best of both worlds, 
because I've been fortunate enough to have cultivated some great 
relationships at the two assignments that I've done so far. But 
I also have this amazing network of 40 and growing Free Agents 
that I can tap into and talk to about common challenges, and are 
just generally really interesting, smart, dynamic people. 

Etienne Laliberte 

For me, the most surprising thing was the value placed on the 
talent management aspect. For me, the Talent Managers especially 
represent the first time that I've seen HR done right in 
government. 

Ryan Sigouin 

What I love is that we don't fit a mold. We are all different. 

We have people coming from HR, from policy, from communications, 
from computer science. When I first thought of Free Agency, I 
thought. Oh, it's only for policy people. And this was when it 
was first starting before the first cohort. I remember talking 
about it at work and thinking. Oh, this is just a policy 
development stream. It's not. This is for a public servant who 
cares about their future and who cares about the public service. 

Greg White 

I guess the thing that most surprised me is I'm obviously fairly 
early in my career. And it was a scenario, the imposter syndrome 
component of joining a group of people or the expectation of the 
application process where you're going through and screening and 
saying. Have you done something innovative? Have you set done 
something different? And for me, the biggest surprise was 
everyone is unique. And everyone has done some really cool thing 
and has great passion for what they're doing, which I think is 
infectious in any job, but it's particularly infectious amongst 
the cohorts. But for me, that was about yes, I've shown some 
attributes are skills that that seem interested in, it's my 
attitude, and how I work. And so that's valued more than 
anything else. And the rest of it will come in terms of your 


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career. So as an early career public servant, I thought that was 
really cool. But also, I guess a little validating in that 
sense. 

Todd Lyons 

I agree, as someone that actually went and I asked some people 
that I trusted, have I done enough cool things to really be 
competitive to be taken seriously? Or is this just going to be 
another door slammed in my face. So they told me to go for it, 
thank goodness. 

(laughter) 

Lily Spek 

So something that really surprised me that builds on Greg's 
point is the fact that this program acknowledges that lots of 
people feel stuck. That just because you feel like you're the 
wrong fit for the job that you've taken, even if it's the right 
classification, there's nothing necessarily wrong with you. So I 
think what surprised me most about the program is that it sort 
of has this view of talent unstuck by design. So we understand 
that maybe there are some great people out there in the wrong 
places. We help to try and make it possible for them to get 
where they want to be. 

Bruce Lonergan 

Just to build on that further is when I came from the — we keep 
on building — when I came from the private sector, one thing 
that always struck me was the silos that we've created in 
government with all these classifications and how we everybody 
has to be pigeonholed and fit into a little mold. And the one 
wonderful thing about this is finally we're able to align our 
passions and our interests with those projects and develop and 
grow and that's what I've been looking for for 10 years. And the 
Free Agent program's allowed that. 

Hope Harris 

I think the thing that surprised me was that you could actually 
walk away from a situation that's not good for you. My first 
assignment was not an ideal match for me and even though the 
project was somewhat interesting, the group and I just wasn't a 
good fit. And that I could actually leave there and go to 
something that was a better fit or with with folks that were 


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maybe just a bit better fit for me. And being a baby boomer you 
know, we have a tentative he stayed in jobs a long time that 
right. And, and so the Free... I think that was probably one of 
the biggest surprises for me is it can actually walk away from a 
situation that's not good for you. 

Amanda Bloom 

Yeah, that actually goes very well with what I wanted to say, 
which is that the program really empowers you not just to drive 
your own career, but to do really what is best for you as an 
individual at the end of the day. And that's one of the great 
things is that, let's say you are in a in a spot where you need 
to take maybe a bit of time off work. The program allows you to 
do that. And the thing is, you're not leaving any incumbent 
position so you're not like abandoning anyone like you can, can 
literally design the program to work for your life. 

Greg White 

Actually, that was one of the things that I thought was really 
important in two parts was one around the mental health aspect 
of finding where we are, our energy obviously. If you're going 
from project to project, usually, it's high stress, there are 
big deliverables. And so it also allows you to manage where the 
next place you're going to go, where you're feeling where you're 
at right now. Something also that was really important to me was 
actually to see fellow for each taking parental leave, and that 
being okay, and finding that you know, your career is fluid. So 
all of those types of things, whether it's parental leave, or 
other leaves that you want to take, or wherever you are in your 
life, that talent managers are absolutely there to help you do 
that. And there's really no barriers for that. It's not about 
justifying and defending it to yourself anymore. It's about this 
is where I'm at and these are my needs and having the met, which 
has been great. 

Bruce Lonergan 

I think that the Free Agent program allows for kind of a almost 
a yin and yang in my life and in government because we're 
talking sometimes a lot about the Ying meaning you know for 
ourselves the benefits for us. But I think we're all in this 
room all the Free Agents are delivering powerful results in 
whatever project we're working on. So we're giving the 
government what the government is looking for but we're getting 


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back what we need and so that balance is there in our lives and 
I think that's the power of the Free Agent program and the power 
that could be in government. 


You've been listening to Toddcast, Season 4, Episode 3. 

All opinions expressed on Toddcast are strictly those of the individual and are not 
necessarily those of their employer. 

Special thanks to my guests: 

Amanda Bloom, Stephanie Davidson, Daphne Guerrero, Steph Percival, Aaron 
Percival, Alena Fraser, Karol Gajewski, Hope Harris, Etienne Laliberte, Bruce Lonergan, 
Leah MacDonald Nancy Pawelek,Ryan Sigouin, Lily Spek, and Greg White. 

And also to our kind patrons who pitched in to pay for the equipment that runs this 
show: 

Steve Buell, Steph and Aaron Percival, Darlene Mulcahey, Abe Greenspoon, Terry 
Kelly, Yvette Fung, Elizabeth Ellis, Katherine Parker, Tanya Garcia, Justin Henry, 

Rachel Muston, John Price, Taran Wasson, Greg White, Joy Moskovic, Jacky Tweedie, 
M.F. Burford, Barbara Dundas, Rod Gallant, Daphne Guerrero, Jennifer Harju, Anthony 
Jaz, Sarine Makdessian, Tariq Piracha, and George Wenzel. Thanks friends, cuz if I 
was paying for this stuff alone, I would seriously be in the doghouse. 

However you found us, please help us bring meaningful content to the public service. 
Become a subscriber, share the episodes, rate our content, and write, and let us know 
what's on your mind. You can reach me at todd @ toddlyons.ca, or, start a conversation 
on GCconnex, or with fellow listeners worldwide on GCcollab dot ca. 

Toddcast is planned, written, and technically produced using free and open source 
software: Kanboard, DokuWiki, and Audacity all running on Linux Mint. Software that is 
free as in cost, but more importantly, free as in freedom. 

This episode's theme music was “Ladiko” by Andrea Barone and is licensed under the 
Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. 

Toddcast content is free to use and share under the Creative Commons Attribution 
Share-Alike license because, like open source, open content and open licensing makes 
the world a better place. 


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I'm Todd Lyons. I'll see you online. 


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